Authors: Carey Decevito
I’m not sure why I went home. God knows I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, due in part to the adrenaline coursing through my veins, but also because of Hannah’s piercing irises.
I paced the main hallway to my home wondering why I felt so guilty.
You promised her.
I paused mid-step and ran my hands over my face letting out a loud sigh. I never uttered the oath, but I did say that I wasn’t going to leave her. Those words, on the side of that treacherous stretch of road, had been as good as a promise in my book.
With rough hands, I undid my tie with a jerk, chucking it on the back of the leather sling-back chair in my study before I proceeded to unbutton the collar of my shirt. I allowed my butt to collapse onto the seat behind me.
So why wasn’t I with her?
Simply put, I didn’t know anything about Hannah other than her first name.
And those eyes.
Yes, those pleading eyes that seared my soul. So helpless, so desperate…so familiar.
For whatever reason – maybe it was the similarity of our situations – the night’s events had shaken me to my core.
The longer I sat there, pondering the reasons, the more I grew apprehensive.
“I don’t even know her full name,” I said to the walls surrounding me. What if she didn’t remember who I was and what she’d asked of me when she woke?
What if she does?
That thought alone had me getting to my feet and reaching for my keys.
You’ve got to be losing your ever-loving mind, Ben.
Locking the front door, I jumped in my car for a destination at which I wasn’t quite sure I belonged – but I was going to live up to my word.
I lost count of how many times I circled the parking lot after I arrived. When I found my resolve, I put my car in park, turned its engine off, and sat there staring out the windshield.
Craig, the paramedic I’d spoken to earlier, walked out of the ambulance bay door. I made a mad dash toward him, hitting the key fob to activate my car’s alarm from across the lot.
The man turned to face me. His face was grim and I felt my heart sink to the pit of my stomach. My feet came to a dead halt a few feet from him.
“Is…is she…?” I couldn’t finish, but what surprised me was the tremendous relief I felt when Craig shook his head.
“No. She’s alive, but we ran into complications on the way. She went into full arrest, but Lindsay managed to resuscitate her.”
As if once wasn’t enough, by the time the rig had arrived, Hannah had crashed a second time. She was now in the OR.
“She looked in rough shape, but…” I ran my hand through my jelled brown hair and down my face, releasing a loud sigh.
“Hey man, you okay? You’re all bent out of shape.”
“It’s nothing. Long day.”
“Listen…” His gaze turned, assessing much like it had at the scene. “I’ve got to get this rig back to the garage, clean, and restock it.”
“Yeah, you do that.” I blew out a puff of air. “Hey, Craig?”
He paused before getting into the ambulance. “Yeah?”
“Did you manage to get her last name? I mean…”
His brows drew together. “Parsons.”
My nod was curt. “Thanks.”
Craig paused before turning his key in the ignition and gave me one last once over. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
I waved my hand as if to brush his concern off. “I’m fine.” I wasn’t, really, but he didn’t need to know about the turmoil I felt inside. So, I chased my words with a quirk of my upper lip, hoping it was enough to appease Craig.
When Craig retreated, I turned toward the Emergency Room entrance, observing the chaos of an unruly weekend night through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
I wondered if any of Hannah’s relatives had been contacted, if any of those people sitting in those waiting room seats, at the very moment, were there for her.
I walked through the sliding glass doors to be met by crying babies and an assortment of worried, sickly and irritated people. I smiled when I saw Marie at the triage desk. Her familiar face helped assuage the small bout of nerves that suddenly consumed me.
“Hey, Marie, I need a favor.”
The woman looked at me with an arched brow, her eyes travelling from my face down to my toes and then came back up to stop at my shirt.
“What the hell happened to you?”
I followed her gaze and peered down at myself. My front was covered in soot, dirt and dried blood. Not once had it occurred to me to change my clothes before leaving the house.
“That’s why I’m here. A woman was brought in not too long ago. I was the one who called 9-1-1 and stayed with her until they came.”
“You know I shouldn’t be doing this, right?”
“I promised her. She lost her husband tonight. I-I promised her that I wouldn’t leave. I just want to know if she’s okay.” With those words, and the desperation in my voice, the look in her eyes shifted to one of recognition, then sympathy. She had been there that night when my family and I were brought in.
Marie gulped and nodded. “Okay,” she whispered. She paused before her fingers made contact with the keyboard in front of her. “Ben, are you okay?”
“Why is everyone asking me that?” My sudden burst of frustration caught me by surprise.
“It’s just…” She was bringing back the past. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?”
“No, I’m sorry. I’m fine, really. It’s been a long day. I guess I’m just a little tired.”
She nodded, gave me a forced smile and proceeded to find the information I’d requested. “She’s still in surgery, there’s no room assignment yet.”
“Can you tell me if her next of kin has been contacted?”
“She had nothing with her when they brought her in, but the police are looking into it.” I nodded. “I’m not supposed to do this, but-”
“Is Hannah Parsons’ family here?” I heard behind me.
“Here,” I said without thinking and turned to the voice, dismissing the arched brow and tight-lipped expression that had made its way onto Marie’s face.
The man in surgical scrubs eyed me from top to bottom. “Well you look like you’ve seen better days,” the mid-fifty’s doctor said before presenting his hand. “I’m Doctor Caruthers. I’m the surgeon who operated on Mrs. Parsons. What’s your relation to the patient?”
“I found her.”
“No, not exactly, but-”
“They can’t seem to locate her family, Doctor,” Marie interjected.
The man nodded.
“How is she?” I asked.
“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss that with anyone but her family,” the man said.
“Excuse me, but we got a call about our daughter being brought here?”
“Name?” Marie asked.
“Mrs. Parsons’ parents I presume?” Doctor Caruthers said, and I turned to stand beside him.
The older couple turned toward us and looking into the woman’s face, it was unmistakable that she was Hannah’s mother. I’d recognize those emerald eyes anywhere.
“Yes,” the man said as he squeezed his wife into his side in an effort to support her. The woman stood there, her eyes fused to my shirt and then meeting mine, her expression one of inquiry. Her husband must have noticed her diverted attention because he addressed me next. “Who are you?”
“He was on the scene with your daughter,” the doctor supplied.
“How are they doing?” Hannah’s father asked.
“You haven’t heard?” Caruthers’s tone sounded so robotic I wanted to hit the man and let him know that he needed to brush up on his people skills, despite his obvious years of practice.
Hannah’s mother’s eyes were still on me and I could no longer hold anyone’s gaze. With my eyes set on my feet, the woman’s whispery voice asked, “He’s not okay, is he?”
“No, ma’am,” I said before the doctor had the chance and lifted my gaze back to hers. “He died before the emergency team got there.”
The woman emitted some sort of squeak, seeking refuge in her husband’s chest, where he held her tight, her body shaking with quiet sobs.
“How’s our daughter?” he asked, his voice quivering.
Doctor Caruthers escorted Hannah’s parents away from me before providing them with an answer, which I listened in for regardless. “Hannah’s status is critical right now, but she is stable.”
“She’s going to pull through though, right?” Her father’s tone of desperation had me gulping down the surge of emotion that burned my throat.
“It’s too early to determine that,” Caruthers said. “Your daughter lost a lot of blood. She arrested en route and crashed once more upon her arrival. For all intents and purposes, she should be fine physically.”
“What do you mean she should be fine?” he inquired.
“She was unresponsive to our efforts for longer than I would have liked.” Regardless of that dire news, the health professional had the audacity to continue his mechanical speech. “We’re not sure if she’ll wake up.”
“No,” the man whispered.
I saw the signs before anyone else.
Before he could collapse to the floor, his wife nowhere near strong enough to hold him up, I rushed to the man’s side and stabilized him before leading him to a nearby chair, crouching down beside him along with his wife.
“But she can wake up, right, Doctor?” I asked. I’d be damned if I let this quack leave these folks without an ounce of hope or optimism.
“Well, sure.” The man met my stare. “It’s always good to remain positive about these things.”
I straightened to my feet, then faced off with the man who held all the answers. “What did the neurological tests say?” I questioned again.
“They…they showed some activity,” he sputtered, but regained his composure. “Listen, I understand that you were there to help, but I believe that this matter should be-”
“Can we see her?” Hannah’s mother cut in, her hand squeezing my forearm in a gesture of appreciation.
“Right this way.” Caruthers made an abrupt turn and proceeded to walk down the corridor without waiting for them.
My feet stayed glued in place as I watched the sixty-something couple get up and walk away, clutching at each other like they were each other’s lifelines.
My ass made contact with the nearest chair, and my head hung in my hands as I leaned my elbows on my knees.
A relieved breath escaped my lips.
It could have been a minute like it could have been hours, I don’t know, but when I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, I looked up. Hannah’s mother stood before me and offered her hand.
“Thank you for being there,” she said with a tearful gaze. “What’s your name?”
“Ben Carpenter, ma’am.”
“Benjamin,” she said, and somehow I didn’t cringe at my full name being used like I had so many times in the past. Only my parents got away by calling me by my birth name. “Would you like to see her?”
“I…” I swallowed the ball of dust that had formed in my throat. “You and Mr.…” I realized that I had no clue if Parsons was their name or Hannah’s married name.
“Donner,” she supplied, with a sad smile. She wrapped her arm around my elbow and started tugging to get me to my feet.
Standing in front of her, I said, “You and Mr. Donner should take this time with Hannah.”
“But you promised her.”
My head snapped in her direction. “How’d-?”
“The nurse at the desk.” She looked toward where Marie had been. “I came back to ask her for your contact information to thank you for all that you’ve done. She said you hadn’t left yet, and pointed me in your direction.” I nodded. “Call me Anne.” She paused just outside a door and looked at me as if she was waiting on something. “Well, aren’t you going to go in?”
My mind was so far off that I hadn’t even realized we’d been walking. I looked at the room’s number and took a fortifying breath. Gesturing with my arm, I said, “After you.”
When my feet crossed the threshold, I came to a halt. The tubes, the wires, the bandages, the mechanical beeps from the monitoring machines – they all brought back so many horrible memories.
“Benjamin?” Mrs. Donner said.
I forced my eyes from my feet, Hannah’s parents both fixing me with worried gazes. I managed to put one foot in front of the other and made it halfway to their side before I caught sight of Hannah’s sleeping face. And I froze again. “I-” I shook my head. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I can’t do this.” I turned and high-tailed it out of there with no further explanation.
I’ve never run away from anything or anyone so damn fast in my entire life.
When my eyes fell upon Hannah’s face, a wealth of emotion overwhelmed me. Fear for her life, empathy for what she and her family were going through, sadness for the loss and guilt.
Guilt for not being able to do more to save her husband.
Guilt for not stopping right away when I knew I’d seen something.
Was this how I was destined to live my entire life? Feeling guilty for shit that I wasn’t responsible for, for things that were out of my control?
Funny how one can rationalize how they should and shouldn’t feel, yet they can’t seem to control the end result.
I sat in my car, pondering my reasons for running, for caring. Finding an answer as to why I seem to end up in situations where I’m forced to relive my past.
I looked up. Had I been sitting in my car that long? Mr. and Mrs. Donner walked out of the hospital’s front entrance with Anne turning to and collapsing into her husband’s arms. Her shaking shoulders indicated proof to her sobbing. He kissed her hair as he wrapped himself around her. It was an intimate moment that shouldn’t have been shared, but there I was taking it all in, wishing that I had a pillar of strength at my side.
With Candace gone, I would never have that kind of support.
Hannah won’t have it either
The Donners walked toward the parking lot, and instead of starting my car to leave, I took the keys out of the ignition and jiggled them in my hands. I could forget sleeping for tonight. Too much had happened within the last twenty-four hours to ensure that. With a sudden bout of determination, I got out of the car, locked it, and marched my way toward the building. Visiting hours were over, but I made like I knew where I was heading and no one bothered to stop me. There were perks to a busy night.
Despite my nerves, something filled me with resolve during my earlier pondering session in the car.
Hannah and I had suffered similar fates. It’s hard to explain, but it bonded us, somehow.
I walked through her room’s doorway and instead of being consumed with old memories, this time I forced my brain to remain on the present, to focus on the fact that this wasn’t about me – it was about Hannah.
I stood by her bed, looking down at her battered body.
A memory flashed in my mind. The image of those petrified eyes of hers that had looked at me, the sarcasm that had come out of her mouth despite her predicament and pain, the trust she had put in me to stay with her.
Would she remember this night when she woke up?
For her sake, and from personal experience, part of me hoped that she didn’t.
But that would mean she wouldn’t know who you are.
Somehow, the thought of that possibility saddened me.
“I’ve got to be losing it,” I said aloud. “Hannah, if you can hear me, I’m still here.” I allowed my fingers to skim the tips of hers before I sat down on the chair next to her bed.